Why Wayward Pines Isn’t Like Every Other Mystery Show

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Terrence Howard, Matt Dillon | Photo Credits: Fox

You probably haven’t heard much about Fox’s Wayward Pines without also hearing the names of classic shows like Twin Peaks and The Prisoner.

And while executive producer Chad Hodge admits the DNA of those shows is inherent in his new 10-episode event series, which premieres Thursday at 9/8c on Fox, he believes Wayward Pines offers something that many of today’s mystery shows do not.

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“Everything is answered,” Hodge tells TVGuide.com. “Every single question, everything you think doesn’t make sense will make sense ultimately. There are reveals in every episode — multiple reveals — and every time a question gets answered, there’s a new question that’s posed. But you’re getting answers all the way through. Viewers should dig as deep [into the mystery] as they want, but also trust that I know what’s going on. I’m not going to cheat you and you’re not going to be disappointed.”

Based on a series of novels by Blake Crouch, Wayward Pines tells the story of Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon), who sets out to find two missing colleagues, one of whom — Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino) — Ethan was having an affair with until recently. However, after surviving an car accident, Ethan ends up in the titular town, which is filled with all sorts of crazy characters, including a creepy nurse (Melissa Leo), a creepy sheriff (Terrence Howard) and a bartender named Beverly (Juliette Lewis), who, like Ethan, wants to escape. However, they both soon begin to realize that may be an impossible dream.

The good news for Ethan, however, is that Kate is in Wayward Pines. But just like everything else in the town, there’s something slightly off. “When he meets her, she appears to be somebody different than when he was with her two weeks ago,” Dillon tells TVGuide.com. “She claims by all appearances to have lived in this town for 12 years. She’s married and lives in a house with a white picket fence. She acknowledges that they know each other, but she’s acting like a different person. So, he begins to question his sanity because he’s had breaks from reality before.”

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Indeed, Ethan’s complicated past — and its classified nature — is what isolated him from his wife Theresa (Shannyn Sossamon) and son Ben (Charlie Tahan), and led to his affair with Kate. “He had some traumatic experiences and he had nowhere to go with it, except to his partner,” Dillon says. “That almost destroyed his marriage.”

And although it might be easy to write off the entire series as a crazy series of Ethan’s hallucinations, when Theresa and Ben show up looking for Ethan, it becomes clearer that whatever weirdness is going on in this town is legit. “You’re not quite sure if everything he’s seeing is real or not, but soon you find out that it is real,” Hodge says. Adds Dillon: “It’s a quest for truth. The search for truth and the acceptance of truth is a big overriding theme of the show.”

And, as Hodge promised, viewers won’t even have to wait until the end of the series to learn that truth. Instead, the reality of Wayward Pines is laid bare in the fifth episode. “That was one of the reasons I wanted to do this show when I read the books,” Hodge says. “As I reader, I kept thinking, ‘How the hell is this going to make any sense? What kind of explanation could there possibly be for all of this?’ When I got to the end of the book and the explanation was given, I was completely blown away because it answered question and filled every single hole I thought there was in the story. It’s a completely airtight explanation. Usually these shows go on and on and the explanation is not as satisfying as you want it to be. This one is a wallop of a reveal and a truth that just explains everything. And that truth is so interesting that I didn’t see that as the end of the series. When you realize what it is, you’re going to be even more engaged to see what happens and what we do with that truth.”

The show’s “big twist reveal” aspect clearly spoke to The Sixth Sense and Signs director M. Night Shyamalan, who directed the pilot and is producing the series, his first TV project ever. “It’s a giant, giant idea. It’s like one of those Jurassic Park kind of ideas and I can’t take any credit for that,” he says. “You’re lucky to come across big ideas like that that are both human and gigantic at the same time.”

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Both Shyamalan and Hodge agree that the “event series” format make it possible to tell this story in a much more exciting way. “The beautiful thing about TV right now is that the form is very pliable,” Shyamalan says. “You can do whatever the material dictates and that’s a very beautiful thing. Even as we were deciding what the length of this was supposed to be, ultimately the decision was to not have any vamping episodes. You don’t have those kind of problems with a 10-episode series.”

But will the show really end after 10 episodes? After all, recent summer events such as Under the Dome and Extant are returning this year for their third and second seasons, respectively. “This is definitely designed as a one-time event series with a beginning, middle and end because I didn’t want to be selling a false bill of goods,” Hodge says. “You get the full, complete story in these 10 episodes. However, there’s always more stories. Blake and I have talked about places the story could for a book 4 and 5 and therefore a Season 2. But the original intent for this, was a one-season show.”

And while it may feel familiar to fans of the genre, the performances and creepy factor makes this a solid bit of summer fun. And it sounds like it only gets better. ” Our format is really unusual,” Shyamalan says. “The thing that I think is really amazing for audiences in that the show changes genres halfway through the season.” Adds Hodge: “It gets really f—ing crazy!”

Wayward Pines airs Thursdays at 9/8c on Fox.

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